Missed Opportunties: Our Review of ’15:17 to Paris’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 08, 2018
Missed Opportunties: Our Review of ’15:17 to Paris’

Now more than ever it is so important that if you see something that seems off to you, you should say something…

While 15:17 To Paris actually does have a smidge of potential to it in telling a story about the importance of treating each other well and the bonds of brotherhood that can happen in and outside of the branches of military services but it ends up as a clunky and expositional effort that tries to shoe horn religion and god into something that really doesn’t need it.

In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris.  It’s an attempt that was ultimately prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe at the time.  The film follows the course of the friends’ lives, from the struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board.

This had the potential to be an inspirational story about the power inside the bonds that can be found through things like religion, the armed services and plain old simple friendship and while you’d think the film suffers from using non-actors telling their own life story, it really plummets into sub-par mediocrity thanks to a clunky and grossly underdeveloped script.

As a director, you can’t help but give someone like Clint Eastwood a pass on this one.  Going against any styles he has used in his films in the past, so much of this almost plays like a fly on the wall documentary and it’s admittedly more than a little admirable that at the age of 87 he still wants to try some different things, but this never gets off the ground.  The character development is minimal at best and we are forced to suffer through some ham handed moments when we see them as kids getting neglected and mistreated in a catholic school system that uses authority figures as bullies for these kids and their parents to rally against.  Combine that with incredibly awkward references to faith and god that poor Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer have to rattle off sound like a gong going off in your ear it makes for a painful build to the event that defined these men’s lives which really only took a few minutes.  To Eastwood’s credit he thankfully didn’t over dramatize the attempted terrorist attack with any overly cinematic flourishes and just let it play as naturally as possible, but there is basically zero character development and we really don’t give a damn about these guys…even though they are the actual guys who stopped the terrorist attack!

It wasn’t using these three men (playing themselves) who takes you out of the narrative, but rather it was bad dialogue and references trying to force this into a story of faith and belief in god, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that it really misses the point that it was trying to make; one about believing in your fellow man, and the person next to you.  It’s all over the map and never has any genuine kind of narrative focus.

At the end of the day; 15:17 To Paris may not go down as the worst thing that Clint Eastwood as put to the big screen (we’re looking at you Jersey Boys) but it may mark the point where we need to sit Mr. Eastwood down, thank him for all his wonderful work and ask him not to sit in the director’s chair again because while he was going minimal this time out, this movie need so much more.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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